A healthy lifestyle and early detection are a great first line of defense in the fight against breast cancer.

October 2, 2017

By Allison Johnson, MD for Haywood Breast Center

After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. In fact, one in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.  With October designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, this is a great time to bring attention to this disease. At Haywood Regional Medical Center, we want all of the women in our community to understand their risk, to be alert to the signs and symptoms and to recognize the crucial role that healthy lifestyles and early detection play in fighting breast cancer.

What are the risk factors?
Among the risk factors for breast cancer, aging is probably the largest. Most breast cancers are found in women age 50 and up. Other risk factors include having a family history of breast cancer, a lack of physical activity, and excess weight or obesity after menopause, among others.  While most breast cancer is found in older women, it’s important to remember that most women have some risk factors, including younger women. Women under 45 account for about 11% of all new U.S. cases of the disease.

What are the symptoms?
Breast cancer symptoms can come in different forms, while some women with breast cancer have no signs or symptoms. Warning signs can include: a new lump in the breast or armpit, thickening or swelling of part of the breast, breast skin irritation, breast pain and discharge other than breast milk. If any signs or symptoms are present, you should see your doctor right away.

What can I do?
The great news is that there are things you can do to help reduce your risk for breast cancer and fight it through early detection. Regular exercise, adequate sleep, limited alcohol intake and avoiding exposure to chemicals that can cause cancer are all great ways to help not only lower your risk, but increase your chance at survival if cancer occurs.  Early detection can be achieved through yearly mammograms, annual clinical breast exams by your health care provider, self-breast exams and genetic screenings.

Breast cancer screenings are an excellent first line of defense in the fight against breast cancer. Early detection means easier treatment. The best way to detect breast cancer is with a mammogram at your doctor’s office. Clinical breast exams and self-breast exams are also good secondary methods for identifying warning signs like lumps or breast pain. You should talk with your doctor about the best methods for breast cancer screenings and how often you should be tested.

Some women may be at increased risk of cancer because of genetic mutations or extensive family history.  Up to 10% of patients identified with increased family risk will have a genetic mutation that can increase their personal risk of cancer.  Finding out about these mutations may result in more intense screening regimens that could save your life.  Here at facilities, we now offer genetic screening and testing for high risk patients.  We have a short quiz on our website (www.haywoodbreastcenter.com) that can help identify if you are a candidate for genetic screening.

Breast cancer is a very real risk for women, but reducing your risk through a healthy lifestyle and early detection through regular screenings can equip you in the fight against it.  For more information on breast cancer risks, symptoms and screening methods, visit our website at www.haywoodbreastcenter.com.  If you have any signs or symptoms of breast cancer or wish to speak with a doctor about the best screening methods for you, call 828-452-8100 and our Nurse Navigator will get you connected with the right care.

You're Invited! Haywood Breast Center Open House on Thursday, Oct 12 4 - 5:30 pm at our Outpatient Care Center - 2nd floor located at 581 Leroy George Drive, Clyde NC - tour the breast center, meet the providers, enjoy refreshments and snacks, and obtain important health information. Myriad genetics will be present to speak with attendees about genetic testing, and also Clyde Fire Department crew will be there sporting pink!